Is Our Two Party System Constitutional?
April 4, 2016
I suppose the better question would be, “Is the two party system best for our nation?” Or, “Does the two party system allow the voters to really be heard?” I would answer “No” to both of those questions.
We used to have the party of Big Government and the party of Small Government. Today we have the party of Big Government and the party of Bigger Government.
As a Christian Constitutional Conservative, if I have to choose between the party of Big Government and the party of Bigger Government, I will of course choose the party of Big Government (currently the Republican Party). But I shouldn’t have to make that choice. I should have more choices.
Our political system today is basically a monopoly. “But Tom, isn’t a monopoly when one entity controls everything?” Generally that is the case. But a monopoly can exist when two opposing parties have a common interest, and use their combined power to shut out any competition.
The market definition of a monopoly is: Market situation where one producer (or a group of producers acting in concert) controls supply of a good or service, and where the entry of new producers is prevented or highly restricted.
There have been many instances when two ostensibly hostile businesses secretly engage in price fixing and force all other competitors out of the market. The political monopoly of the two party system is very similar.
Yes, the Democrat and Republican parties have widely disparate goals in most social, moral and political arenas. But they are like blood brothers in their unity on one issue: maintaining their monopoly over the American political system.
How does this monopoly manifest itself? Well, when was the last time anyone who wasn’t the candidate of one of the Big Two parties elected president? When was the last time you saw a third party candidate allowed to participate in a debate? Why, in most states are you not allowed to vote in primaries unless you are registered as a Republican or a Democrat? Also, the Big Two make it very difficult for an alternative party candidate to even get on a ballot. I could go on, but you get the idea. The Big Two have an almost unbreakable lock on the American political process.
Yes, we have seen third party candidates attain some degree of success. The most notable in recent years was the 20% of the national vote gained by Ross Perot’s Reform Party. But since then the Big Two have put even more laws and rules in place that would make a Perot-like showing very unlikely.
Without major reforms, the voices of American citizens will not be heard. The party bosses will continue to tell us who we may vote for. Most Americans believe that they vote for the presidential candidate of their choice. The truth is that we are not allowed to vote for president. (I will discuss this in detail in a later article.)
One other important defect in the two party system that needs to be spotlighted is the way it excludes millions and millions of Americans from the presidential general elections. Have you noticed that following the conventions certain states are inundated by local TV ads tailored to their state, robotic telephone calls touting a candidate, and endless visits by the candidates themselves. Yet in other states you would hardly know it was an election year if you didn’t watch the national news.
That’s because of the red-blue-purple US maps. The states that are colored red are considered to be states that will vote Republican – even if, as Donald Trump has famously said, he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The blues states will vote for the Democrat candidate, even if he is an avowed Socialist like Bernie Sanders. So if you are in the minority party in those states you may feel like you might as well stay home. Talk about disenfranchised!
The so-called purple states are ones that are wild cards – "swing states" they could go either red or blue. So they are where all the money goes. They are where all the rallies and town halls are held. And they are where the candidates spend endless hours shaking hands and kissing babies.
There is one other factor that gets the attention (and money and time) of the candidates. That is the order in which the primaries and caucuses are held. Again, this is totally controlled by the two political parties. Why should the votes of the people in the relatively rural state of Iowa and the tiny state of New Hampshire count for more than the votes of citizens in other states? Simply because their primaries are held earlier than the other states.
The Big Two decree when each state can hold their elections, and they can punish any state which doesn’t bow to their will. For instance, if a state holds its primary earlier than the DNC or RNC dictate, the parties can penalize them by not allowing their delegates to cast their votes at the convention, or by only allowing a percentage of the delegate votes to count.
How do the votes of the early primary states count more than the later ones? Well, let’s say you planned to vote for Marco Rubio in your primary. The early states didn’t like him much, but maybe your state would have loved him. It doesn’t matter, because since they didn’t vote for him, he dropped out of the race. Now you have to choose from among other candidates that you might not care for. If you live in New Jersey, the people in American Samoa (which you might not have ever heard of) will have already helped limit the choices of people you can vote for by the time your primary comes around.
The only fair way to deal with these huge problems is to break the monopoly of the Big Two and allow states to hold their primaries when they choose – preferably all on the same day!
Those who read my articles every week know that I don’t spotlight problems without offering solutions. But before I can do that, we need to discuss the two main systems of political representation in the world today.
The majority of the democracies of the world use some version of Proportional Representation. This system tends to more accurately represent the diverse political views of its citizens than does Plurality Voting, the system used by the United States.
Unfortunately we inherited the Plurality Voting system from England. Our nation was settled by people from many countries, but the majority were from England. And we were governed by English law until we achieved our independence. So it is natural that we adopted their voting systems to a large degree.
In simple terms, under this system if a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent were running for the same office, and the Democrat received 40% of the vote, with the other two receiving 30% each, the Democrat would win. The problem is that 60% voted AGAINST the Democrat but he or she still won. In an individual election, there’s nothing to be done about that.
But let’s say we’re looking at a vote for Congressional Representatives from my state, Florida. Under the Constitution every state, regardless of size, is entitled to two senators. The number of Congressmen sent to the House of Representatives is determined by population. Currently Florida is entitled to 27 Representatives. Each is elected by his or her own Congressional District.
What if, instead of each District electing its own Representative, they were elected statewide to represent the whole state. That would eliminate the “gerrymandering” problem in which politicians change the boundaries of the Districts to make it more likely that it will elect someone from their party. And what if the delegates were apportioned by the number of votes from various parties – say Republican, Libertarian, Democrat and Socialist. This would be a type of Proportional Representation.
The obvious downside to this would be that the Districts wouldn’t have one person looking out for their particular Districts. But once they get to Washington, Congressmen tend to forget about their Districts and start building their political careers. And that involves obeying the Party bosses. If they disobey them and vote against the party line too often, they will be punished by being put on the Sewage and Sanitation committee, and they won’t get any help from the party in their next election.
The obvious upside would be that candidates with different positions and principles would have a say in the halls of power. As their numbers grew, the Big Two would have to listen to them, consider their viewpoints (which should represent those of the people who elected them), and form coalitions with them to get legislation passed.
Under Proportional Representation members of many parties can be elected to the legislature. Minor parties could weigh in on key issues, giving many Americans a voice where they had none before. “Wait a minute, Tom. That sounds like a parliamentary system. We don’t need that kind of crazy political instability in the US.”
It is true that what I have described is one of the aspects of a parliamentary system. It is also true that the big party monopolists use that similarity to frighten citizens so that they don’t even consider Proportional Representation.
Most Americans just shake their heads when they hear news reports about a parliamentary government that has just been elected a few months prior being dissolved and new elections being held. Under such a system the people elect a government, never knowing how long it will be in power. A vote of no confidence or the splintering of a coalition can bring down a government in a matter of days or weeks, depending on the laws of the nation.
The United States Constitution prevents such a scenario. Our leaders are elected to definite terms, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the Constitution does not prevent Proportional Representation. Some state laws would have to be changed to implement this system, but it is entirely within the purview of the states to make such changes.
Consider the crazy quilt of state laws we already have regarding primaries. And consider also that many of the rules that govern how primaries are held are not state laws at all, but are rules made by the Big Two parties with the goal of preventing third party candidates from participating in the process. You may think that all states have primaries like yours. But look at this diversity…
1) Eleven states have Open Primaries, meaning any registered voter can vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.
2) Eleven other states have Closed Primaries, meaning that (in almost all cases) only Democrats and Republicans can participate.
3) Most other states use some Hybrid of the Open and Closed systems, with rules differing from state to state. But in most Hybrid states, independent or unaffiliated voters are excluded.
In addition to the differences between Open and Closed primaries, there are also significant differences in the way votes are cast. For instance, in presidential primaries, there are…
1) Caucus states, in which groups of voters from one of the major parties get together and argue, plead and twist arms to convince fellow voters to back their candidate. If you can’t attend the caucus, you get no vote.
2) Traditional ballots, which can be cast on election day or (in most states) in early voting or by absentee ballot.
3) Delegate voting, in which voters elect delegates who are then allowed to vote for whomever they wish at their party’s convention.
All these types of voting are to elect delegates who will vote on behalf of those who elected them. But in the Caucus and Traditional Ballot states the delegates are “bound” to vote for the candidate the voters instruct them to vote for. In Delegate voting you’d better know who you’re voting for, and his or her political leanings.
As if that weren’t complicated enough, in some states the Democrats hold caucuses while the Republicans hold traditional primaries. And in many states the two parties hold their caucuses or traditional voting at different times from one another.
To make things even more complicated, some states are…
1) Winner-takes-all, meaning that if a candidate wins by even a tiny percentage of the total votes, he or she gets ALL the delegates of the state.
2) Proportional, meaning that the delegates get a percentage of the state’s delegates in proportion to the percentage of the total votes he or she receives. So if a candidate gets 75% of the votes he or she gets 75% of the delegates – instead of the whole enchilada.
3) Sort-of-Winner-Takes-All. Unless the winner gets over 50% of the votes, the delegates are divided proportionally.
4) Sort-of-Proportional. In these states, delegates are divided proportionally – unless a candidate fails to reach a certain threshold – usually 10% or 20% of the votes cast. In this case, his or her delegates are divided proportionally among the candidates who reached the threshold.
What do all these variations on voting methods and procedures have in common? Almost every provision of the rules of all the states favors the stranglehold the two party system has on our political process.
So, what can be done? Obviously, we need to expand our system to accommodate third or fourth or fifth parties. That will be difficult to accomplish at the presidential level, because the Constitution does speak to one part of the process – the Electoral College. As things stand now the Big Two have rigged the process so that it would be almost impossible for a third party to prevail in a presidential race. I will discuss this in more detail in a future article.
But do not despair – there is a lot that can be done at the local and state levels and even in national contests for the Congress. Once an alternative party (or parties) gains strength and recognition, the monopoly of the Big Two parties on the presidency can be broken.
10,072. That’s the number of jurisdictions in the United States that conduct elections. That number includes 50 states, 3,140 counties and 5,312 cities, towns and villages. This is where we start if we want to break the domination of the Big Two parties on the United States.
A good way to begin would be by building a national base of support. The Electoral College rules apply only to the presidency. So, once you get candidates on the ballot in other contests, there aren't any legal barriers to third party or independents candidacies. Over the years there have already been a few third-party and independent Senators, Congressmen and even governors who have challenged the two-party system and prevailed.
One important step is getting on the ballots. It is fairly easy in some states to get on the ballot as a non-Big Two candidate; it is very difficult in many states. For help in this process, see “Ballot Access News” in the Links Section below. There are also challenges to third parties in terms of raising money and gaining recognition. It takes work and determination. It also takes people getting past the idea that if they vote for a third party candidate they will “waste their vote.”
The whole “waste your vote” idea is the mantra of the Big Two parties. They want us to believe that they’re the only game in town. It’s a sort of chicken and egg proposition. If people don’t vote for third party candidates, they won’t gain support or finances. But without support and finances, it’s hard to mount a campaign. The Bible says that without a vision the people perish. If God gives you a vision to be part of a movement to bring this nation back to its Godly Constitutional roots, have faith that He will help you.
It won’t happen overnight. But in spite of the difficulties, some third parties are making some advances. The Libertarian Party is running candidates throughout much of the country now, and in some states, they have gained sufficient support to be recognized as a major party. Although not officially a political party, the Tea Party movement has had success in getting behind Republican candidates and helping them get elected. There’s even a small Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives. Then there is the Constitution Party, which advertises itself as the only party that lives up to its name.
Around the nation, small numbers of independent and third-party candidates have been elected to local office. And there are other groups forming to challenge the status quo. It won’t be easy. We’re talking about solidly entrenched institutions that have a lot to lose, in terms of power, prestige and money if their chokehold on the system is broken. They have built a huge dam that has held for many, many decades. But cracks are starting to form.
If patriots continue the struggle to allow other viewpoints besides those of the Big Two parties to be heard, our political system will be richer for it. God created America to be a beacon of light for the world. We have allowed that beacon to be dimmed by permitting a selfish, self-serving system to control our body politic. God wants better for us. And He demands better of us.
The Ballot is Confusing!
VIDEO: Ron Paul on the Two Party Monopoly
The Case for Proportional Representation
Ballot Access Newshttp://www.ballot-access.org/Fair Vote Website
He has written thousands of articles that have been republished in national newspapers and on hundreds of websites, and is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. His weekly Conservative Truth article (which is read by 250,000) offers a unique viewpoint on social, moral and political issues from a Biblical worldview. This has resulted in invitations to speak internationally at churches, conferences, Money Shows, universities, and on TV (including the 700 Club).
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